Social vs. Search Advertising: Which Digital Marketing Strategy is Right For Your Company?

November 10, 2017

There are many different digital marketing tactics, as far as advertising goes, you have two primary options: social or search advertising.

Social advertisements are placed on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin, while search advertisements, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, show up on the first or subsequent pages of search results.

Which one of these strategies is right for your business?

Here’s what you need to consider before you decide:


Social media networks allow you to use an image alongside the ad copy, while search advertisements solely use text (except for display ads). Before you decide which type of advertisement to run, think about the nature of the product or service you’re trying to sell and ask yourself these questions: 
  1. Do people need something visual in order to understand what you’re selling?
  2. Will you be able to explain your value proposition with just text?
If you need an image to get your point across, stick with social advertisements to start.

Learn more about Facebook Advertising Tips.

Intent to Buy

Both search and social advertising allows brands to control who sees their advertisements. But...the manner in which you can target consumers is slightly different. See below: 

On social media, brands can target people based on their age, location, gender, tastes, and much more. You can narrow down your audience as much as you’d like, but you won’t be able to target based on someone’s intent.

Fortunately, search advertising gives you the power to do this.  

For example, let’s say you want to advertise your personal training services to people in Denver. On social media, you would be able to target people in Denver who enjoy going to the gym and working out. But, this means anyone who exercises would see your ad, not necessarily people who want a personal trainer. Using search ads, you could target keywords such as “personal trainer Denver” or “Denver personal training”. People who search for these keywords are clearly interested in working with a personal trainer, so they are more likely to convert to customers.

If you only want to target people who are further down the sales funnel, search advertising may be right for you.

Local Customers

Do you have a small business that needs to build awareness in the local community?...If you answered yes, search advertising may be the answer.

Consumers that are looking for a local restaurant, dry cleaner, or any other type of business tend to turn to search engines instead of social media networks. If you rely solely on social media advertising, you may not be able to reach these valuable customers who are trying to find a business like yours.

Interactive Ads

Brands love social ads because it gives them the opportunity to engage with their customers.

If an ad shows up in a consumer’s Facebook feed, for example, the consumer can like it, share it, or even comment on it.

The brand will then have the opportunity to respond to the comment in order to answer questions or provide more information. As long as you have the resources to monitor the ads and respond to customer comments and questions, this is a great opportunity to connect with customers and push them further and further down the sales funnel.

Brands don’t have the ability to engage with consumers in this way through search advertising. If you have a product or service that is brand new or complex, it may help to use social advertising so you have the opportunity to provide more information to consumers when it is requested.

Long-Term Value

Consumers that are exposed to an ad on a search results page have the option of either ignoring the ad or clicking on it to visit the brand’s page.

Consumers who are exposed to an ad on social media have these options as well, but they can also choose to share the ad with their friends or followers.

If a consumer chooses to share it, the ad will be amplified across the consumer’s network and exposed to a larger audience, where it may be shared time and time again.

Amplification is the process by which an ad reaches a much larger audience than you originally intended. Because social media ads have the potential to be amplified, they have a higher long-term value than search ads.

A social media ad can continue to live on and reach new consumers through shares long after the campaign is over, but this is not possible with a search ad.

Learn more about content amplification.

Calculating ROI

Marketers rely on return on investment (ROI) calculations to determine if a marketing tactic was successful.

It is fairly simple to calculate ROI for search advertising because of the amount of information search engines give you on click-through rates (CTR) and customer conversions.

Although this information is also available for social media ads, calculating ROI for this type of advertisement is much more difficult.

Social media ads do not generate nearly as many conversions as search advertising.

However, this does not mean the ad was not successful, but rather that it served another purpose such as raising brand awareness or providing customer engagement.

This often leaves marketers scratching their heads as they try to figure out how to quantify the value of brand awareness in order calculate ROI.

If your management team relies heavily on seeing numbers, explaining how successful your social media ad was may be quite difficult.

Both social and search advertising have their pros and cons. If you feel that your business could greatly benefit from using both, don’t be afraid to incorporate both tactics into your marketing strategy.

Be sure that your ads are cohesive, meaning they don’t send mixed messages to consumers. After you run your first social and search campaign, take a look at your results to determine if you should continue using both tactics or if one was more successful than the other.

Ready to find a strategy that’s right for your business? The team at Denver Website Designs can assist you with everything from topic generation to crafting content. We assist businesses of all kinds and will approach the website and strategy holistically to boost your business. Learn more about our process and how we can help your business grow!
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